I love DeMarco Murray. I do. But he’s a back who is about to hit his second contract and is often banged up. So in effort to keep Murray healthy and productive, we are going to continue our search for a late-round running back that can contribute in year one for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, we took a look at super-athlete Jerick McKinnon from Georgia Southern and how he could provide some “juice” to the Dallas Cowboys offense. Today, we are going to look at a back that you wouldn’t want to see in the fourth quarter of a close game, Storm Johnson from Central Florida.
I don’t know about you, but I miss the days when we had a running back that could grind out the tough yards late in games. Remember Marion Barber at the peak of his career? If the Cowboys had to close out a game, there was no running back in the league I would rather have had on my team than Barber. There’s no better example of that than when the Cowboys played the Atlanta Falcons on a Saturday night in Week 15 of the 2006 season. The Cowboys had the ball, up three points, with 8:50 seconds on the clock. And on the back of Marion Barber, they ran more than 6 minutes off the clock and eventually scored on a three-yard Barber run. That was smash-mouth football. I miss that. And I think Jason Garrett and company do as well.
Since that game, I don’t remember many times where the Cowboys could kill the clock by just running the ball down the throats of a defense. They lost a game against in Detroit this year because they couldn’t get one more first down on the ground. Against Green Bay they didn’t trust their backs to be able to run out the clock, so they resorted to throwing the ball. I think Murray can do the job, but I’m not so sure that’s where he thrives.
Storm Johnson reminds me a lot of New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. In a zone-blocking scheme in which he can run downhill, he will be extremely productive and efficient. Like Ridley, Johnson can run through arm tackles and shows tremendous balance. But scouts and fans won’t love Johnson because he lacks even one great physical trait.
And although his measurables show that he has no elite attributes, his ability to stay on his feet and find holes down-field impresses me. Take a look at this play for example:
Johnson knows how to get “small” when he needs to. When he ducks between those two players is a good example of that. That little move where he dips his shoulders is what makes him a successful running back. He can explode through even the smallest hole at the line of scrimmage and will quickly find himself against a linebacker in the middle of the field.
And like Marion Barber and Stevan Ridley, Johnson is money when he is close to the end zone. In order to be an effective goal-line back, you have to be fearless. You have to want to get into the end-zone like your career depends on it. But you also have to be patient. His goal-line running style is very reminiscing of Barber as he gets so low to the ground and torpedoes himself at the legs of the defenders, making him nearly impossible to tackle. Here is a great view of that here:
Storm Johnson can likely be had for a sixth or seventh round pick and I firmly believe he will out-produce his final draft position. If Dallas wants to select a player that could save DeMarco Murray from the pounding carries late in games, Johnson would be a viable supporting player on this team.